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Cost versus Care; Birther Bill; Empowering Girls; Faith over Medicine; All the Best, All the Worst of 2010

Aired December 23, 2010 - 23:00   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Dr. Sanjay Gupta here, filling in for Anderson Cooper.

Tonight: why are tens of thousands of brain-injured troops being denied a type of rehab that many medical experts say could help them recover? Why won't the Pentagon's health plan cover it? We're "Keeping Them Honest".

Also tonight, do parents have the right to sacrifice their children's health in the name of religious freedom? Two families who believe their faith could cure their children are now in trouble with the law. We're going to look at their cases.

And later, "All the Best, All the Worst 2010", a look back at the "You got to see them" moments to believe them this year, including the Saints' big Super Bowl upset, the wow gadget of the year, and Anderson's explanation of how he was caught on camera head to toe in a bunny suit.

We begin, though, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest" -- tonight, thousands of U.S. service men and women are preparing to spend another holiday in Iraq and Afghanistan in harm's way.

And thousands more are going to spend it here at home recovering from their injuries. Our lawmakers and our military officials talk a pretty good game when it comes to supporting the troops. Take a look.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to treat our veterans with the dignity and respect they deserve.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The most fundamental thing that we could do: to honor the sacrifices of our troops.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Those fighting to recover deserve respect for their sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: The sacrifices have been immense.

Here's a number I want you to consider. Right now, at least 115,000 service members have been injured with brain injuries since 2000. That's according to the Pentagon. It's a pretty big sacrifice for your country, by almost any measure. And many believe the number of brain injuries is actually far higher.

So, "Keeping Them Honest," why is the Pentagon refusing to pay for a treatment many medical experts believe is the best type of rehab for traumatic brain injuries? It's called cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

And I can tell you, as a practicing neurosurgeon, who sees a lot of brain injuries, it's something that I recommend for many of my patients. It basically combines intensive speech and occupational therapy to help patients relearn everyday skills, like speaking, like paying bills, like cooking, driving. It's tailored to each patient's needs.

At least major three private health insurers cover it: Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth. But here's the thing. TRICARE, the health insurance plan for nearly four million active-duty service members and retirees, a plan operated by the Pentagon, will not pay for it, which means tens of thousands of troops who have come home with traumatic brain injuries can't get this therapy, unless they pay for it out of their own pockets.

Now, to defend its position, TRICARE last year commissioned an assessment of available research. The study's conclusion was, there isn't enough evidence that the therapy works.

But it turns out that experts who reviewed TRICARE's study called it this: deeply flawed, unacceptable, even dismaying. An investigation by ProPublica and NPR uncovered confidential documents, including this letter by one of their reviewers.

He wrote this -- quote -- "The authors failed to use any of the many widely accepted systems for grading the strength of a body of scientific evidence, and they failed to justify this action."

He also said the authors ignored several widely accepted reviews of hundreds of studies that show the therapy actually does work. The conclusion reached consistently across them, he wrote, was that several forms of cognitive rehab are effective for individuals with TBI, traumatic brain injury.

And he also said this: "I believe the review of cognitive rehabilitation conducted by the ECRI Institute," this particular institute, "was unacceptable."

Now, TRICARE is standing by the report it commissioned. We invited them to come on the program tonight, and they sent this statement instead. They said -- quote -- "The care and rehabilitation of our wounded service members is of utmost concern to the Department of Defense, the military services and TRICARE. While many believe certain forms of cognitive rehabilitation are helpful, no single form has been adopted by the majority of rehabilitation professionals."

They also said -- quote -- "More research is needed to support the effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation and all severities of TBI."

I want to point out that, just last year, the Pentagon convened a panel of 50 civilian and military brain specialists who concluded that this type of therapy is in fact effective and in fact would help many brain-damaged troops.

Here's something else. More than a decade ago, a similar panel convened by the National Institutes of Health reached a similar consensus, and the Brain Injury Association of America also considers it effective.

Here's one more thing you should know. Cognitive also expensive -- cognitive rehab is also expensive, costing between $15,000 and $50,000 per soldier.

"Keeping Them Honest," is cost a factor in this particular story? TRICARE says it's not. We're going to let you decide.

I talked earlier to Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and T. Christian Miller, senior reporter for ProPublica, who worked on its TRICARE investigation.


GUPTA: So, Paul, let's get right to it.

Brain injury is the signature injury of this war. We have been talking about that. I'm holding up a stack of studies here that show cognitive rehabilitative therapy is effective, yet many veterans aren't getting it.

Why is that?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well, right now, TRICARE's not paying for it. And I think that's a major problem.

And I think what we have seen across the board is that the military medical delivery system has -- has often been behind some of the newer injuries. And traumatic brain injury isn't something that -- that most folks in the medical community were familiar with five years ago, 10 years ago.

GUPTA: Right.

RIECKHOFF: And it seems like there's a game of catch-up going on. But, no matter what it costs, no matter what it takes, these men and women with traumatic brain injury need the help they deserve. That's got to happen immediately and without any kind of red tape or barrier. GUPTA: I want to drill down on that point, though -- TRICARE obviously one of the insurance companies that provides care for veterans.

T., I mean, you have been investigating traumatic brain injury for almost a year now, in conjunction with NPR. What have you found about that specifically, what Paul is saying? TRICARE won't pay for it. What -- what have you seen about that?

T. CHRISTIAN MILLER, SENIOR REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Yes, Daniel Zwerdling of NPR and I have been looking into this.

And one of the things that we were told is, you've got to find out, why does TRICARE not pay for cognitive rehabilitation therapy? It's one of the recommended treatments for brain injury.

What we found is that TRICARE did a study in which they said there wasn't enough scientific evidence for this, so we just can't provide it to our troops.

GUPTA: And I have -- I've -- I mean, there's literally hundreds of studies and I have read through the studies I have showed you here. And I -- I got a -- I should say, as well as a neurosurgeon, I refer patients often for cognitive therapy.

What struck me is, if you follow the standards that I looked at that TRICARE seems to be using, it seems that no form of rehabilitation, let alone cognitive, but no form, physical or otherwise, would be found to be effective.

So, how do they defend that? I mean is the standard just too high, what TRICARE is setting, T.?

MILLER: Yes, that -- yes, that's exactly what we found, is we found that that study that TRICARE was relying upon was heavily criticized by some of the top scientists in the country as being basically an impossible standard. It was a gold standard that you couldn't really rely upon to measure any therapy.

GUPTA: So, you have -- you have a lot of -- a lot of independent doctors, scientists, who work in this field, T., who have looked at this -- this study that TRICARE commissioned, essentially.

And so many of them wrote letters subsequently saying the study is flawed, it was inadequate. And if you look at the -- all the evidence in aggregate, cognitive therapy is effective, we recommend it.

So, what is the response from TRICARE, from the Pentagon, when they're faced with that?

MILLER: Well, what our reporting found was that TRICARE's stance is, we just don't have the science to back this up. And all those other --

(CROSSTALK) GUPTA: But the science exists, though. I mean, it's -- it's not -- it's not, you know, somewhere hidden away. It's -- I found it easily. Any -- anybody could find it.

MILLER: Yes, exactly.

And that was what our reporting turned up, is, they were relying upon this one study, when there was this mountain of other evidence to say it is effective and it does work. And I think TRICARE is proceeding cautiously, one, on the science grounds, but there's also a money issue.

As you know, Sanjay, this is not a cheap treatment. It costs a lot of money. And, as Paul just pointed out, there are a lot of soldiers who might be deserving of this treatment.

So, that would be a huge bill for the Pentagon to pay, and they're aware of that.

GUPTA: Paul, you know, I have read the letters from TRICARE and the Pentagon. And they say, specifically, money did not come into the equation here; this is not about money. That's what TRICARE says in the letters and in some of the statements they have released.

What -- what have you heard from the people that you deal with, vets, directly?

RIECKHOFF: Well, what we have heard is that there are a lot of folks who need care. I mean, as many as one in five folks coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan could have a traumatic brain injury. Many of them are -- are undiagnosed.

So -- so, they need this care. And if -- and if the Pentagon isn't on top of this, they should be. Secretary Gates should solve it immediately, and I hope that, you know, this -- this interview here and the press surrounding this, and also the mobilization of the veterans community behind this, will get them to make a change quickly and -- and -- and permanently, so they can get these folks the care they need.

GUPTA: And I -- I've just got to say again, I mean, I refer patients -- I think most of the doctors in my field, and many fields refer patients for cognitive therapy all the time. I was stunned to hear that there was -- there was a real concern about the adequate science here.

I mean, Paul, you deal, again, directly with these vets coming home. Put a face on this for us. Are there -- are there specific stories or -- of men and women that you have met that are going through this problem now?

RIECKHOFF: Oh yes, absolutely. Our deputy executive director has done four tours overseas since 9/11. And if he's around a blast -- he actually got shot in the face -- so he needs to be screened for traumatic brain injury. He needs to be treated for traumatic brain injury, and his family needs to be supported throughout that process. And there's another key element here, Sanjay, that is overlooked. Until the defense appropriations bill just passed yesterday, there was no screening for traumatic brain injury before --


GUPTA: Right.

RIECKHOFF: -- and after deployment.

So, you know, in that flurry of legislation in Washington this week, the new defense bill will finally set up screening for every service member before and after.

And I think that's going to catch a lot of folks that have been suffering with this issue and didn't even know it. It's really an invisible injury that often manifests itself in other ways over time.

GUPTA: And -- and the -- the -- the benefits of -- of cognitive therapy, attention, memory, ability to function with your family --



GUPTA: -- all of those are -- are significant benefits that -- and may be harder to measure, as compared to some other things in medicine, but so significant.

I -- I just want to come back, T., to this -- this -- this money issue again.

Again, TRICARE, along with the Pentagon, has adamantly said this -- I'm sure they told you the same thing -- it's not about money. Have you specifically heard otherwise, that it is in some way about money?

MILLER: Yes. Some of our reporting, some of the sources that we talked to, talked about being in meetings where money was a big topic of discussion.

And we just recently found a letter where an assistant secretary at the Pentagon also mentioned that they basically want to get the best bang for their buck here.

So, money does play a role. I don't want to suggest the Pentagon is withholding treatment to save money, but they are approaching this treatment very cautiously, because they know it costs a lot of money, and they want to make sure to themselves that it works.

GUPTA: I've got to tell you, from my perspective as a neurosurgeon and as someone who's also been to Iraq and Afghanistan, I can't emphasize enough what an important issue this is. We're obviously going to continue to follow it.

T. Christian Miller, Paul Rieckhoff, thanks so much for joining us. Both of you, happy holidays.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you. You, too.

MILLER: Thanks for having us.


GUPTA: We want to hear what you think as well. Join the live chat now under way at

Still ahead: President Obama's home for the holidays, in Hawaii, the state where he was born and he lived for years. But the birthers, they're not backing down.

Also ahead: the President signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" policy this week, but it's what his defense secretary said today that's raising some new questions.


GUPTA: President Obama has started his Christmas vacation. He arrived today in Hawaii for an extended stay with his family.

Now, the President was originally supposed to fly there last Saturday, but he remained in Washington while Congress finished up its last-minutes business. Now, the First Family is going to return on January 2nd.

Mr. Obama likes to vacation in the state where he was born in 1961, but there are still some Americans who are not convinced of that. They believe he was born outside the United States, possibly in Kenya, which is where his father was from.

In fact, a CNN/Opinion Research poll back in July found that while 71 percent of those surveyed said the President was definitely or probably born here, 27 percent said he was definitely or probably not.

Here at 360, we have been following this so-called birther movement since its inception. Time after time, we have presented the hard facts to disbelievers.

One Texas Republican, state Representative Leo Berman, went so far as to introduce a bill requiring candidates for president to present an original birth certificate showing they were born in the United States.

President Obama is not named in the bill, but the implication is clear.

"Keeping Them Honest," Anderson recently spoke to Mr. Berman, who challenges the legitimacy of the President's birth certificate and who claims his bill is necessary because -- and I quote here -- "We have a president who the American people don't know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place."

Why don't you listen and decide for yourself?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you personally believe that President Obama was not born in Hawaii?

LEO BERMAN (R), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, you know, I really don't know.

If you look at my white hair, you can tell I have been around for a while. And I have known everything about every president that I have come across for the last 70-some-odd years. I don't know anything about President Obama. I wish I did.

COOPER: How can you say that?

BERMAN: But there's nothing to prove.


COOPER: How can you say that, though?

BERMAN: Excuse me.

COOPER: Because, I mean, there is a -- a birth certificate. There's a certificate of live birth, which is what the state of Hawaii sends out. We're showing a picture of it to our viewers. It has got a raised seal. And it's got the stamp of the -- the -- the -- the health register from the state.

Why -- why isn't that good enough?

BERMAN: Well, because it's not an original birth certificate. It doesn't show the parents' place of birth. And, also, we know for certain that President Obama's father was born in Kenya, since he was born in Kenya, in 19 -- that was a British protectorate. President Obama was born in 1961.

And with his father being a British citizen, at least, President Obama, we think, holds dual citizenship.


COOPER: Well, actually, technically that's not correct.


COOPER: He may have been born with dual citizenship because of the technicality of his father being under the British -- a British subject, being from Kenya, but he automatically lost that in -- in -- when he -- at the age of 23, as anybody -- anybody does.

And to say that that document is not --

BERMAN: How do you lose that?

COOPER: To say -- it's just -- it's the way it happened.

To say that that document, though, is not the original birth certificate that is what the state sends out when anybody asks for a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. And it's accepted by the U.S. State Department as valid for a U.S. passport.

And -- and the Hawaii state health director has acknowledged that, back in 2008, she has -- and I quote -- "personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Senator Obama's original birth certificate -- certificate on record, in accordance with state policies and procedures."

The governor of Hawaii, who is a Republican, was quoted as saying: "I had my health director, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records at the Department of Health. We issued a news release at the time saying the president was, in fact, born at Kapi'olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. And that is just a fact."

Is she lying?

BERMAN: Well, my question to you, then, Anderson, is, why -- did you see it? I would like to see it.

COOPER: Well, you can go --


BERMAN: And I would also like to see President --


COOPER: You can go and see it. The nonpartisan fact-checking organization, they -- they looked at it. It has a raised seal. They say it's legit.

BERMAN: A raised seal could be put on by any type of machinery.

But what I'm saying is: where are the president's passports? Where are his travel documents? Where are his school records? Why don't we know anything at all about a president who has such a radical agenda? There is a radical agenda. And I would like to know something about the President of United States.

COOPER: Well, let me -- let me ask you about that --


BERMAN: The state of Hawaii --

COOPER: -- because have you seen --



COOPER: -- George W. Bush's transcripts from college?

BERMAN: I could see anything I want from George W. Bush.

COOPER: Actually, sir, you couldn't.


BERMAN: I can go right online and get it, yes.

COOPER: No, actually, sir, you couldn't.


COOPER: Under -- under federal law, you're not -- the -- those -- the schools cannot release that information. And President Bush refused to release that information from Andover and from his time at Yale. Someone actually leaked the Yale records illegally, but, actually, he refused to release them.

BERMAN: Let's get on to another point. Where are the President's passports and his travel records which got him to Pakistan in the early '90s, when no U.S. citizen could get to Pakistan at all?

COOPER: Sir, where did you hear that?

BERMAN: Where are his college records?

COOPER: Sir, where did you hear that?

BERMAN: Why can't we see anything?

COOPER: Sir, where did you hear that?

BERMAN: We can't see any personal documents about this president.

COOPER: Sir, I don't mean to contradict you.


BERMAN: I'm sorry?

COOPER: I -- I respect you. And I respect, certainly, your service to this country, but where did you get your information? Because that -- that -- what you have just said is factually incorrect.

BERMAN: I'm getting my information the same place you are getting your information.


BERMAN: I want to see a passport that got the President --


COOPER: Well, how do you know the President traveled to Pakistan, what did you say, in the late '90s, late '80s?

BERMAN: I think it -- late '80s, early '90s. That's common knowledge.


COOPER: Right, that's actually not true, sir.

BERMAN: Everybody knows he traveled to Pakistan -- he had a passport -- when --

COOPER: Right.

BERMAN: -- U.S. citizens couldn't travel to Pakistan.


BERMAN: So, which country --

COOPER: Ok. Sir, he traveled to Pakistan --

BERMAN: -- did he --

COOPER: Sir, he traveled to Pakistan in 1981, and -- and when he was a student. And -- and, actually, Americans could travel to Pakistan then.

In fact, I -- we have an article from "The New York Times" from 1981 from the travel section about the joys of traveling in Pakistan. You needed a -- American citizens, I think they needed a 30-day visa, but American citizens could go and travel in Pakistan. That's just an Internet rumor that you're spreading.

BERMAN: No, it's -- it's not an Internet rumor that I'm spreading. I'm sorry, it's not.

COOPER: Sir --


BERMAN: It's not. No, it's not.


COOPER: Barack Obama went to Pakistan in 1981, when Americans could go there. It -- it's an Internet rumor that Americans couldn't travel there. And you had the dates completely wrong.

BERMAN: Have the major media actually gone into an investigative mode to see if the President --


COOPER: Sir, this has been looked at for --

BERMAN: -- is really entitled -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- years and years.

BERMAN: -- to be the President of the United States?

COOPER: And -- and no court has supported this. Most legitimate, you know, observers of this, most people in the country have moved on from this and say, look, the president is a -- is a United States citizen.

BERMAN: Oh, I don't think most people have moved on.

I think either 50 percent -- even CNN polls have shown that 50 to 60 percent of the people of the United States do not believe that the President is eligible to be holding that office.

COOPER: Sir, again, I'm sorry to -- to keep --

BERMAN: That's your own CNN poll, isn't it?

COOPER: All right, sir, ok, I have the CNN poll right here. I hate to -- I hate to keep reading this. The CNN poll from July 16-21, all Americans, question, was Barack Obama born in the U.S.? The number of Americans who said definitely or probably, the percentage was 71 percent; definitely or probably no, 27 percent.

So, according to this poll, if you believe this poll, 71 percent of Americans believe probably or definitely that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Admittedly, 30 -- 27 percent who don't believe it, that's a lot. That's a big number. But -- but -- but, again, just factually, you haven't shown me any fact that proves he's not, and -- and -- and you haven't been able to answer anything of -- any direct thing about the facts that you have brought up that have been wrong.

BERMAN: May I -- may I say that no major media has shown me any facts either?

I'll give you my public mailing address, and you can send me the facts, if you would like to. But no one will send me the facts --



BERMAN: -- the State Department, the public media, I mean the major media. I haven't seen anything yet. And I would like to see it.


GUPTA: Up next, helping young girls succeed. Empowering them, inspiring them, we're going to take you inside a special program. It's tonight's "Perry's Principles" when 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: About three million children across the United States have mentors, but it's estimated about 15 million other children could use the guidance of an adult to inspire them, to make a difference.

Well, special mentoring program that matches girls with women in the workforce is helping to close that gap. CNN education contributor Steve Perry has more in tonight's "Perry's Principles".


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am a firm believer in the power of mentoring.

STEVE PERRY, (voice-over): They are leaders in politics and diplomacy.


PERRY: Top media deal makers and big time producers. Women surrounded by positive role models.

Delores Sarfo-Darko, a junior at Seaton Hall University in New Jersey, is inspired.

DELORES SARFO-DARKO, YOUNG WOMEN CREATING CHANGE LITTLE MISSES FORUM: Being a trailblazer means a lot to me. One of the first steps is trying to come up with the idea of what you want to do and you have to be passionate about what you're doing. But then also you have to be legit, you have to have a plan.

PERRY: Delores was one of my students and I knew her plan. It involved getting good grades and empowering young girls. In high school she co-founded the mentoring group, Young Women Creating Change.

Now in college, she's done it again. She and her classmates mentor girls in what they call The Little Misses Forum.

LISA BUFFINGTON, V.P. PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE: Sleep with them and mingle, ok --

PERRY: Lisa Buffington a vice president at Prudential Insurance helped Delores start the forum.

BUFFINGTON: Her passion to want to get something important off the ground and it just spoke to my heart. I'm involved in women's leadership groups over in the business community, so I understand the importance of women banding together to, you know, support ourselves.

PERRY: Delores's Little Misses Forum organizes one-on-one mentor sessions for the girls and holds conferences like this one in Connecticut which brought together mentors and mentees from different groups. ELAYSHIA BERGOS, CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET HIGH SCHOOL: Being in this program means a lot to me because it helps me -- like, they help keep an open mind on things. I think that sometimes girls my age, younger, even older, they need somebody to talk to and I'm all ears. Even when my little sister gets older, I'm always going to talk to her and make sure she -- she knows that she can talk to someone.

PERRY (on camera): How are you able to motivate these young women to motivate other young women?

SARFO-DARKO: I think -- what locks them in is that the younger girls are depending on them. They're not going to not show up. They're showing up for them.

So I think that's what really locks them in. Each one of the college mentors is going to be paired up with one of the girls in The Little Misses Forum. So it's like there's one person that's relying on you to be there.

PERRY: Can you tell me about the importance of the mentoring relationship?

SARFO-DARKO: What makes me want to be a mentor is the impact that my mentors have had on me. I feel like the woman I am is owed to my mother and the different mentors that I have had. And I see girls struggling and I see their self-esteem being dropped down to the floor and I show them myself too. And I want to help someone just as they've helped me.

COOPER: So what can students do to support younger students?

PERRY: Well, just like Delores did, she's actually one of my students Anderson.

COOPER: Oh really.

PERRY: Yes she was. And I remember when she was in high school, she saw some girls who were being bullied and pushed aside and she felt like she could do something. This is even high school.

And so she created a program that she wanted to call Little Misses, she actually wanted to be a pageant. It's not going to happen. So we went with something else. It was a mentoring program.

COOPER: Was that Little Misses?

PERRY: Little Misses --

COOPER: So ok, all right.

PERRY: Like little Wayne, not going to happen. So what we did was we talked about, well, what's another way that you can do this Delores? And she turned that into a mentoring program. Because that was the root of what she wanted, a peer mentoring program. She used that as her college essay to get into Seaton Hall. She received a full scholarship. COOPER: Wow.

PERRY: And then when she got down there, she -- she took the program and expanded it. Now she's working with the group called the Dream Academy and they work with the children of incarcerated parents. And she as a 19-year-old has what is a regional organization around mentoring.


PERRY: She has two chapters, one in Hartford still at our school.

COOPER: Right.

PERRY: We have a women's center because she started it and one down in East Orange.


PERRY: Down -- it's -- it's really exciting.

COOPER: Amazing thing. Steve, thanks.


GUPTA: There are a lot more stories ahead that were coming tonight; Randi Kaye joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, now that the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is law, defense Secretary Robert Gates is saying not so fast. Gates sent a memo to U.S. troops warning them that "don't ask, don't tell" will be in effect until 60 days after the government says the military is ready to implement the repeal of it. No word on how long that might take.

But in the meantime, Gates is telling gays and lesbians in the military to stay in the closet or face, quote, "adverse consequences".

New York police are looking for a suspect caught on this grainy surveillance video who was rolling a suitcase later found to contain the body of a 28-year-old woman. Police say the woman was strangled.

The Reverend Pat Robertson says sending people to jail for possessing a few ounces of pot is, quote, "costing us a fortune and ruining young people". The Christian conservative made the comment on his TV show which airs on the Christian Broadcasting Network. A spokesman for the network insists Robertson does not support decriminalizing pot.

And MTV has a new reality show in the works that will star Paul del Vecchio, also known as DJ Pauly D. He is the fun-loving spiky- haired star of "Jersey Shore" for those of you who don't know. Word is the show is set to launch next fall. Sanjay, I know you're going to be an avid viewer of that one, loyal viewer. (CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Everybody has a show nowadays, don't you think?

KAYE: Exactly.

GUPTA: One of these guys who I barely know their names, they have a new show. You just have to like, Google them.

KAYE: And don't forget Snooki's book, you know. So hey.

GUPTA: I'll read that right before I watch his show.

About Pat Robertson, that was interesting though. I couldn't quite understand. So he thinks that it's potentially for a few ounces of pot could potentially ruin a child's life if they go to jail but he doesn't support decriminalization.

KAYE: Right. Go figure.

GUPTA: Yes. I'll be curious to see what he thinks about that in the long run if someone asked him about that.

Randy, stick around though for this. Tonight's "Shot", we found this on Let's just say this boy, I'll preface by saying, this boy has a bone to pick with Santa Claus. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the heck is that?

I don't get books, that's not toys, that's books. I don't get books for Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't get books for Christmas?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hate books for Christmas?



GUPTA: What do you think, Randi?

KAYE: What the heck is that? That cracked me up.

GUPTA: My kids are watching right now. They'll get some idea. Come on, kid. You might go far. Read the books.

KAYE: Now, what would you do if your child reacted that way, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Let me tell you Randi. My child actually, she wanted a magic wand last year, you know. One of these -- it makes a noise. And this year I asked her what she wants, she goes I really love that magic wand except this year I want a real one. Talk about setting the bar pretty high, huh Randi.

KAYE: Well, you don't want her to say, "What the heck is that, dad?"

GUPTA: Right. She doesn't know what she's going to get yet. Santa hasn't told her.

KAYE: All right.

GUPTA: Randi, stick around, we have some more serious stuff up next.

If your child were seriously ill, you'd take them to the doctor, right? Most people would. But in a small town in Oregon, many parents would not and it's all because of their beliefs. We're going to have their story and the legal problems they're facing ahead.

Also the popularity of Facebook kept rising this year with over 500 million members across the world. What were some of the other popular events worldwide in 2010? We've got more in "All the Best and All the Worst" ahead.


GUPTA: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, is it a crime when parents avoid taking their child to a doctor, even when the child could die without medical treatment? Well, in the state of Oregon, the answer could be yes, but that hasn't stopped some members of a Christian-based church who shun doctors in favor of faith-based medicine.

We continue our look tonight at faith-based healing with a report from Dan Simon. I want to warn you here, there are some pretty disturbing images in Dan's report.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is called the Followers of Christ. Among its principle tenets: faith healing, no doctors. Former member Holly Martinez never saw one growing up.

HOLLY MARTINEZ, FORMER MEMBER: When you go to the doctor, you are having a weakness in faith that you don't believe that God will heal you of whatever it is.

SIMON: Dr. Larry Lewman is the former chief medical examiner in this county. He thought the church would have learned its lesson long ago. Over the last three decades his office investigated the deaths of some 20 children of church members. Most, Lewman says, could have been saved with medical treatment.

DR. LARRY LEWMAN, FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: It's against the law not to feed your kid. It's against the law not to provide the necessities of life, including medical care for a child.

SIMON (on camera): Imagine not allowing your own children to go see a doctor. To fully understand the impact of that, authorities say just come here to the church's cemetery, where you'll find the names of numerous children whose deaths doctors say could easily have been prevented.

(voice-over): Ten years ago in the wake of deaths connected to faith healing, Oregon enacted a law that can make parents criminally liable for their children's deaths. A law used to convict Marcy and Jeff Beagley, found guilty of criminally negligent homicide earlier this year after their son died of what prosecutors claimed was a treatable disease of his kidneys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sentence you to serve 16 months.

SIMON: But watching their fellow members go to jail has apparently not altered behavior. Since then, two new shocking cases have emerged.

What you are about to see is disturbing.

This photo is that of a 10-month-old baby girl with a terrible eye condition that leads to blindness. It's called hemangioma and it can be treated. But the baby's parents, Timothy and Rebecca Wildland (ph), declined medical care. As a result, they've been charged with criminal mistreatment.

The state's Department of Human Services took custody of the baby, placing her in foster care. In September though, the parents got her back but must follow a court order that requires medical supervision.

Even more tragic is the case of Dale and Shannon Hickman. Their baby, born prematurely, died at home shortly after birth. No ambulance or doctor was ever called. They've been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Attorneys representing both couples say their clients are innocent. They say these are cases about religious freedom and that parents have the right to do what they feel is best for them and their children.

Drive around here and there's no way to tell who's part of the church. They dress like everyone else, drive, own businesses, and send their kids to public schools. They can watch television and use the Internet. But as we discovered, at home, there is a critical difference.

(on camera): We're told you can find one of these in every family's medical cabinet: a bottle of olive oil. Here's how it works. You take a couple of drops, dab it on your finger, and then anoint the oil, or put it on whatever body part is hurting. Then you say a prayer, and that they believe, is what cures the sick.

(voice-over): The church's lawyer declined to comment, and you can see what happened back in April when we tried to question members in person.

(on camera): I'm Dan with CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know you're not supposed to be on the property.

SIMON (voice-over): We wanted to ask about the church practices, about why children are dying.

(on camera): Why not just tell us about --

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Please get off the property or I'll have the police out here to get you off.

SIMON: OK. All right.

(voice-over): We moved to the public sidewalk, and he was still angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of us have any comment. So why even bug us? Because that's all you're going to get is "no comment".

SIMON: "No comment" as the church clings to faith healing, even while a cemetery continues to grow.

Dan Simon, CNN, Oregon City, Oregon.


GUPTA: So when it comes to faith healing, is it legally OK for parents to make religion a higher priority than their children's physical well being? I spoke with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about this earlier.


GUPTA: Jeff, you heard Dr. Lewman there saying it's against the law not to provide medical care for your child. The attorneys representing parents charged with criminal mistreatment say this is about religious freedom. Parents have the right to do what they feel is best for their children. I mean, what is the legal right here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is not about religious freedom. This is about the right of children to get adequate medical treatment and not die. So I don't think this really has anything to do with religious freedom.

GUPTA: Does intent play a role here, Jeff? I mean, even if a parent thinks they're truly doing the best thing for their child but as a result they withhold medical care and the child suffers or dies, they could see jail time like we just saw?

TOOBIN: What -- what Oregon made clear when it changed this law because of the Followers of Christ is that intent does not matter.

GUPTA: Interesting.

TOOBIN: You can have good intentions. From all that I've been able to tell, the Followers of Christ are sincere. They're earnest. They actually believe what they're doing. This isn't some sort of scam.

But they are not allowed to kill their children. And that's what this law is all about even if they have good intentions. If they have treatable illnesses and they withhold treatment from their children, they are committing a crime, regardless of what their intent is.

GUPTA: You know, Dan Simon in that piece, I mean, he brought up this point, that we talk about deterrence often when it comes to legal matters, and yet some of these people, as you saw, seem not to be deterred. I mean, you can prosecute them after the fact, but the damage is already done, especially when it comes to these vulnerable children. Is there anything that can be done earlier?

TOOBIN: You know, that's a really tough issue because, you know, criminal law doesn't really work prospectively. It's very hard to enforce criminal law before anyone has committed an act that the law punishes.

This has gotten a lot of attention in Oregon. The Followers of Christ know all about this. But they are earnest; they are sincere, but they can't do this.

They just can't do this. So this is where the law reaches its limits, because you can't prosecute people in advance of their withholding treatment from their children. So the risk is going to be there, even though the law has changed.

GUPTA: It's a remarkable story. We've been doing a couple stories, as you know, this week, Jeff, on faith healing, something we're going to continue to follow.

Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

TOOBIN: OK, Sanjay.


GUPTA: And still ahead, an exciting discovery in anthropology: a bone fragment discovered in Siberia. It's over 30,000 years old. Why it could give scientists a whole new look at prehistoric humans.

Plus, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is on our list of "All the Best and All the Worst of 2010". But probably not for the reasons most people might think.


GUPTA: You know, 2010 gave us a lot of wow moments in pop culture and sports. Some are great; some had people scratching their heads, frankly, like legendary Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.

He's in the twilight of his career. The NFL is now investigating allegations he sent improper photos to a young woman. He denies it.

San Francisco Giants gave the city by the bay a great wow moment this fall when they beat the Texas Rangers to win the 2010 World Series.

And Mark Zuckerberg is no doubt feeling his mojo at Facebook, which is still the No. 1 social networking site.

This year also became a banner year for the Big Easy. Tom Foreman has "All the Best, All the Worst of 2010".


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Best underdog coming out on top: the New Orleans Saints, from a city still staggering back from Katrina, making it to the Super Bowl for the first time in team history and winning. Who dat? We dat.

PETE DOMINICK, COMEDIAN: The New Orleans Saints win was the feel-good sports story of the year.

JULIA REED, "NEWSWEEK": When they won you could hear the shouts from every single house. It was astonishing.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That was amazing. And, you know, for New Orleans it was just an incredible moment.

JULIE CHEN, HOST, "THE TALK": I'm not a huge football fan. But I wanted to see New Orleans have this win.

RICH EISEN, NFL NETWORK: I think it could be one of the top moments in sports history for what the -- what the championship meant to this one particular town.

FOREMAN: In basketball, the Lakers took the trophy and Lebron James took the award for worst overhyped move.


FOREMAN: In hockey, the Blackhawks hoisted the cup. In baseball, San Francisco brought the World Series home.

In Canada, the Winter Olympics drew 2,500 athletes from 82 nations. Best setup for a snowball fight, if there were snow.

DOMINICK: I love the Winter Olympics, although it's so much better when they have winter during it.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": I missed the Winter Olympics. Was that in the winter?

FOREMAN: The United States won the most medals overall, Canada, the most gold. Good one, eh?

COOPER: I don't follow sports. Nope. I can't even pretend. I mean, I could say, "Yes, did you see the game?" But I don't really know what the game is.

FOREMAN: Worst interference? The vuvuzela horns at the World Cup.

CHEN: I was on board and then the "woh-woh-woh".

DOMINICK: The iPad is changing the way that we smear glass.

REED: It's just fantastic.

SUNNY HOSTIN, TRUTV: And apps. I mean, I'm app crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teach me how to break. Teach me how to break.

FOREMAN: Best online dance sensation, the Dougie. Best student? Wolf learning it from Doug E. Fresh himself.

Best Internet crime fighter. Antoine Dodson. A guy broke into his sister's room. He told a local news crew, and the video went viral.

ANTOINE DODSON, WITNESS: We got your T-shirts. You left fingerprints and all. You are so dumb.

HOSTIN: I think it came from such a good place. He was outraged.

PARKER: Love that guy. I love that guy.

FOREMAN: Best moment of Zen. Double rainbow guy.

PAUL VASQUEZ, RECORDED DOUBLE RAINBOW: Double rainbow all the way across the sky.

FOREMAN: Best music video period: Keenan Cahill and 50 Cent.

Best video to keep your mom from getting a tattoo.

And best attempt to talk to the animals gone completely wrong: Anderson's visit with the apes, where he dressed up in a bunny suit.

COOPER: The easiest answer is I was wearing a bunny suit because an ape told me to. That doesn't really clarify much, does it?

JACK GRAY, CNN PRODUCER: You thought Charlie Sheen had issues.


GUPTA: You can see much more of Tom Foreman's "ALL THE BEST, ALL THE WORST 2010" tomorrow night, 5:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And he did not clarify the whole bunny thing. That's for sure.

That's all part of CNN's New Year's Eve coverage. Anderson and Kathy Griffin are together yet again this year for New Year's Eve live, counting it down to 2011.

Up next, though, a terror warning for India, still reeling from last year's attacks in Mumbai. What you need to know. That's ahead.

And an amazing discovery -- it's remarkable stuff. An ancient bone that may change the way scientists view our human species.


GUPTA: Time to get caught up on some other stories tonight. Randi Kaye is back with a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

KAYE: Sanjay, for those flying this holiday, be aware that transportation security agents will be paying extra close attention to insulated beverage containers. There is concern, apparently, that terrorists may try to hide explosive material inside those containers, but passengers are still allowed to bring them on board the airplanes.

Police in Mumbai, India, have issued a terror alert for that city. They say four militants are in Mumbai and may be plotting violence over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The militants belong to the same group that launched a deadly attack there back in 2008.

The Chicago Board of Elections has ruled that Rahm Emanuel is eligible to run for mayor. His opponents claim that since he lived in Washington for two years, working at the White House, he did not meet the residency requirement. The board said he never terminated his Chicago residence.

A remarkable discovery in Siberia that may have tremendous implications: anthropologists unearthed the pinky bone of a small girl, and tests show she may be part of a previously unknown species of prehistoric humans. How cool is that?




KAYE: And there you have it, the annual pre-Christmas tradition on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange today. Traders stopped what they were doing to sing a century-old song, "Wait until the Sun Shines, Nelly." It's believed the tradition dates back to the Depression, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Nice to hear them take a little break like that. Hopefully, it's not a harbinger of when that song actually started getting sung, then.

Randi, we've got one more story for you and for everybody at home tonight, one that we really wish that we didn't have to report. Here's Anderson, who recorded this special tribute to a former 360 writer.


COOPER: I'm taking several days off for the holidays, but I wanted to come in tonight and briefly talk about a friend and a colleague who died just this week. His name is Peter Freundlich. I suppose I should speak of him in the past tense, but I find it's still too sad and, frankly, shocking to think of him as passed.

Peter was a truly remarkable writer who started in television writing for Harry Reasoner. And then he wrote for the legendary Charles Kuralt over at CBS. Peter helped great newsmen find and perfect their great voices. Peter won a lot of awards for his work at CBS. And his acceptance speech for an Emmy that he got there was something that he was pretty proud of.

He was also quick to tell you the reason that he could never work at CBS News again. Look.

PETER FREUNDLICH, WRITER: To the fine folks at CBS News who fired me after a couple of decades, and then wrote me a -- issued me a short-term day pass so they could do a spot of piecework for them, I would like to say, must ring all the eloquence for which we writers are famous -- now --

COOPER: That was classic Peter.

Peter began at CNN after that speech, and frankly we were lucky to have him. He started writing for Aaron Brown, and then he agreed to write for me. Peter chose who he wanted to work with, and those of us that he honored with his time and with his talent were a lucky and very grateful band.

I valued his wisdom as much as his words, his heart as much as his head. I often sought his opinion and worked hard to get his approval.

Writing for television is in many ways a thankless work. You don't get a by-line. The hours are long, the time to write short. But Peter crafted sentences and pages that were filled with humanity and humor, as well as pathos and pain.

When he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus a little more than a year ago, he started a blog called "Esoph's Fables" in which he wrote about his sudden transport from what he called the robust and healthy United States of America to the Republic of cancer.

"I've been press-ganged," he wrote. "I'm in a burlap bag in the hold of a ship bound for who knows where, which is to say I have been diagnosed. Whisked off the way, rendition spirit suspected terrorists overnight to lands where the law is negotiable, reality is amoebic, and nothing, not even the view from the window, can be counted upon."

His blog, his letters home from Cancerland, were often funny, sometimes painful, but I eagerly awaited each dispatch, because Peter opened my eyes to a place, to a disease that many of us are too scared to even peek at.

"My life is more nearly perfect now than I ever dared dream it might be," he wrote on his blog. "Everything pleases me. The slim fountain pen with which I write in purple ink, outdoors in the warm evening air, by the light of a couple of wine glasses with tea lights in them, one blue, the other yellow."

He wrote about his delight at the surprise visit of his son, Nick; his love for his daughter, Jenny. "I'm writing less," he wrote, "in the last few months, because writing is finding yourself, and I'm wholeheartedly trying to do just the opposite these days. I'm trying to lose myself. I think on the theory that if I can't find myself, then neither can the cancer."

Well, the cancer did find Peter Freundlich this past Monday, and all of us who knew him and all of us who loved him feel that a terrible shadow has passed over our hearts.

If you'd like to read some of Peter's blog, the address is